#1. The Chalice: 83 points
"Our ladies' nights are really dope," asserts the Chalice's queen-bee rapper, Lizzo. "We get together and drink. That's how it started -- with red wine. If it were liquor, it wouldn't get done. Making tracks, turning tracks into a song, and turning tracks into a banger is like three completely different processes."
Process number four is working on steps and transitions in a drafty, high-ceilinged practice space in northeast Minneapolis with cans of Pabst at the ready. "You want a drink?" asks Sophia Eris, who perpetually wraps her head in colorful fabric. After pouring something alcoholic for herself, she hands a bottle of water across the makeshift bar. Come to think of it, every interaction City Pages has ever had with the local hip-hop scene's new goddesses has incorporated liquid refreshments of some sort.
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The Chalice at 7th St Entry, 9/28/12
"First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you," F. Scott Fitzgerald once said. And though he uttered it in a state of enlightened intoxication long before rap music, there's something to his statement that applies to the framework of the Chalice. Except their drinking sessions aren't just taking Lizzo, Eris, and Claire de Lune in -- the greater Twin Cities music scene is getting lit too.
"I want to impress the pants off the audience so that they feel like their time is well-spent," Eris says of the group's live presence. For now, it's time to work out miniscule kinks in the ensemble numbers embedded within an ambitious 19-song set. This is stuff like agreeing on which beat to bust into rapping the intro to Salt-n-Pepa's "Push It" after segueing out of their own song of the same name. And like everyone else who sips -- and eventually gulps -- from the Chalice, the guys in the four-deep funkatronic backing band, Sexy Delicious, wear the smiles of those who are pleased to imbibe along during this rehearsal.
It'll be another five days before the Chalice wear sequins, jewelry, and dresses while hoisting cups swirling with fermented grape. They'll be in front of a 7th St. Entry crowd packed with rapper friends and at least a dozen photographers. But you can already see the entire thing playing out in their glistening irises. They're even considering their end-of-show banter. "There's a lot of fucking people to thank; I could talk for hours," Eris admits. At this instant, their world is an enormous ladies night, and the trio's raw talent is the intoxicating stuff brimming from their goblets.
"One of the reasons it works is that I'm a Lizzo fan and a Sophia Eris fan," de Lune says of her two rapper counterparts. "And I have been since before we were in a group. I have a guess that if you put five-year-old [Sophia] on stage, she would've killed it. Lizzo owns the stage, owns the booth, and everything she touches turns to Lizzo." Lizzo's got the pure vocalist's back too: "Claire has a voice that is almost like an instrument. It's very rich and clear. She nails it."
After a fortuitous meeting at last year's Red Stag Block Party, a mixtape incorporating a bunch of females from the scene brought the Chalice closer together. Then there was the 12-minute blowout performance at SXSW that even a geriatric bartender got down for, and later what amounted to crashing the Minnesota Public Radio's airwaves party. "There's a lyric on the Current right now that says 'roll up up up in the club club club' and I'm proud of that," Lizzo says, exploding with a booming laugh. "That was not on there before."
After questions started circulating about when a record was coming, a fervid July and August in the studio turned into We Are the Chalice. It's a party EP, a gilded cup handled with a middle finger cocked on its cover, to remind us that Missy Elliott used to have the nickname "Misdemeanor," and that audacity and brashness are an acceptable substitute for hip hop's chin-stroking and pontification. Their song "Ladies Night," while it is immediately a nod to what the Chalice call "our foremothers," is also based on a true story that's still unfolding.
When Friday's release show arrives, so does a palpable and feminine electricity inside the Entry. Even though each member of the Chalice is only in her early to mid-20s, there's ample creative ground to cover. In addition to We Are the Chalice, Lizzo has regular projects with Larva Ink and Tha Clerb, and de Lune has her solo songs, as does Eris. And everyone guests on everyone else's stuff around town. It's a set lively and fluid enough for the middle-finger wavers to want to get crunk, and long enough for the whole room to achieve crunk.
Still, the ladies admit they've only really begun to mesh recently. "If you listen to the record, you can hear us grow as a group," Lizzo says. "We're not just three artists anymore." If this is only the happy hour of the Chalice's development, let's order up another round.
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